Do you know what your children are up to online?

As I was reading the news today, the headline “Predatory woman scams boys” grabbed the immediate attention. Here we have a woman with a fake identity chatting up boys with the hormones raging through their systems in order to obtain sensitive information like credit card details. Police confirmed that there was a groping side to her activities. (Read the article here >>>)

While it is great that children are able to be connected through sites such as Facebook I am also convinced that parents have an important role to play in keeping our youngsters safe. I know for a fact that there are several children that are between 6 and 10 that already have their own Facebook profile, despite all the age restrictions. My own boys come home and want a Facebook profile because “everyone else in my class has one.” Once children seemed happy with sites like “club penguin” specifically designed for our young ones and others like that. But no, they need a Facebook page. I will not go into the question whether or not a parent should allow their kid to break age restrictions, as the same would apply to movies, tv programmes, computer games and more. What I do think is that in all this, as parents we have a responsibility to keep an eye on what your kids are doing. I admit that it becomes harder and harder, with mobile and smart phones at every decreasing ages, bit it does not seem to make sense to just let our children go out there unattended, unprotected and basically left to their own devices.

The news story confirmed such a viewpoint:

“It comes down to parents knowing what their children are doing on Facebook and who they are talking to,” he said.

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said it was a rare case.

“It is fairly uncommon for an adult female to groom and scam teenage boys. More effective scammers understand the needs of the victim and play on those. With teenage boys, they want to be liked by teenage girls, so that makes it a target,” he said.

Parents should make sure children were aware that scammers operated online, he said.

I previously posted on similar subject matter:

Here are tips to enhance your safety and more importantly that of your child:

  • Most importantly be open and make sure your child can talk with you, make sure it knows it is being loved
  • Be clear in the agreements with your child in what is and what is not allowed and what to do in case of an incident
  • Explain the risks of online sexual solicitation and the risk of talking to strangers
  • Discuss the risks of meeting face to face and be very cautious about it
    • Do some checks first before you give your ok
    • Make sure meetings if any are in public places
    • Make sure that you know where your children are
  • Teach your children to be very careful with sending and posting personal information
  • Install firewall, filtering software, anti spy ware, anti virus software and monitor what is going on on the internet
  • Be open about that and discuss your worries
  • Encrypt wireless networks at home
  • Discourage downloading games and other media that could contain undesired content
  • Supervise contacts and friends the same way as in real life
  • Monitor on line activity of your children regularly
  • Set security settings high of your software (windows, browser and email) high
  • Understand and approve used screen names and ensure they don’t guve away too much private details
  • Make sure that children post only what they and you are comfortable with when others see it
  • Discuss the need of posting a photo in profiles
  • Discuss that flirting with strangers can be risky and even dangerous
  • Trust your gut feeling if you are suspicious or uncomfortable
  • Report suspected behavior
    Read the rest of the post here >>>

Besides that I recommend you reread my 85 tips for staying safe online here >>>. In relation to social networking and child safety I posted the following tips


  1. You don’t need to use you real name at all times, nicknames are an accepted practice and can help protecting your privacy for instance in chat rooms and on forums and newsgroups. Consider using a web based email address ( etc).
  2. Think carefully before giving out personal information during IM, in chat rooms, newsgroups etc. You don’t always (very often if not always) know who you are talking to.
  3. Remember that people can change their identity or lie about who they really are.
  4. If you want to meet someone you met in a chat room in person, talk on the phone first, meet in a public place and let someone else know what you are doing.
  5. Be careful what you post on your profile at for instance myspace, facebook, hi5, hyves, and consider your privacy options.
  6. If your sharing photos online, check the meta data you are sending out and if necessary remove it. Depending on the camera you used there could be private information on there you may not want to share.
  7. Bloggers and tweeters, keep in mind that people have gotten in trouble about what they post with third parties and employers. Think before you hit the publish button or consider blogging anonymously.


  1. Place the computer where you can see it.
  2. Set clear rules, which may include time spent online and what is and is not allowed online. Punishing inappropriate behavior afterward. may not be the best solution if there were no clear rules upfront. Banning your child from the net may lead to them finding ways to access the internet out of sight and your control (at a friend’s place, the library an internet cafe).
  3. Make sure you know the password of your children so you can check what they have been doing and where they have been.
  4. Don’t scare your children away from the net and explain that like in the real world there are some fruit loops out there that they may run into.
  5. Take an interest in your child’s activities online, even if you don’t feel confident about your own abilities, encourage them to open communication.
  6. Encourage your child to report anything out of the ordinary or unpleasant they encounter online an be seen to follow up on it.
  7. Do not be intimidated by technology, ASK IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. The dumbest question is the one not asked.
  8. Don’t overreact. Not every incident is as serious as it may appear. Try to determine if incidents are of an isolated, coincidental nature and best to be ignored or a signal of potential trouble that needs closer monitoring. (Keep the communication open see 5.)
  9. Keep credit cards away / out of reach of your children, you could end up with unpleasant surprises.
  10. Check whether any chat rooms your children use are moderated (for instance the Penquin Club). This means that the site has arrenged for someone overlooking the chat sessions and throw anyone out that is a nuisance.
  11. Discourage your kids from having one-on-one conversations as opposed to addressing the complete chat room.
  12. Instant messaging = one-on-one and if you find your child doing that, make sure you know who the person on the other side is. Preferably allow this only with people they and you know.
  13. Consider installing a content filtering system or join with an ISP that tries to filter websites. Remember that there are no 100% fail safe systems so don’t get complacent or a false sense of security.
  14. If possible check your child’s surf history and keep in mind that computer savvy kids may be able to get rid of what they don’t want you to see. If you are of a paranoid nature, consider having all your child’s email coming through an email address under your control.
  15. Don’t think children are just curious about sex and porn, there is a wealth of stuff out there that will be interesting to the explorative youngster including things such as drugs, hacking an cracking, illegal downloading, and even things like making bombs.
  16. Don’t isolate talks with your children from the rest of life, it is all part of the same bigger picture of safety in general.
  17. The internet may be able to assist your child in learning about a lot of things including life but IT CAN NOT BE A REPLACEMENT FOR PARENTAL GUIDANCE.
  18. Don’t automatically assume that inappropriate behaviour is your child’s fault. Building trust and confidence may well be more constructive.
  19. Keep yourself informed about what is going on on the net.
  20. Don’t forget that mobile phones may have internet access as well. If your child has a mobile, make sure you set similarly clear ground rules.

Stay safe everybody

Thoughts on Parenting

Father & Daughter

A Glimpse in the Future or a Sign

Young restless teeenagers. Did we get a glimpse in the future of what it is to have teenagers in the house or is this a warning to make sure that we give our children a place they can call home at all times, a place where they can feel loved and where they can feel safe and at peace. Some weeks ago we offered one of our boys’ rooms to a member of our church because he no longer had a place he could call home, a roof over his head  after the earthquake.
I can’t help but being sad to see how our young guest does not seem to have a clue as to what it is to be part of a family. Relatively unaware,  he pops in and out without ever thinking about the rest of the family here. No other consideration it almost seems, not for leaving us in doubt whether or not to include him in the cooking, for the fact that our oldest son generously parted from his room so that he could have a place to withdraw and get back at peace, and he decides late at night to not come home.  Restless.
A child (as that is what he still is) from a broken family with seemingly no father or mother to hang on to. It saddens me even more to realize that there are so many of these out there. Clueless, directionless, because they have basically been neglected by their own (broken) families and our education system is engineering them to think of themselves as the center of the universe, an education system that no longer teaches children to concentrate and go deep.
It is painful to see how much damage parents can cause (also thinking about the damage I may have caused already with my own boys) when children do not feel loved and are neglected. No discipline, no sense of participation, all self-centered if only because that was how to survive from a young age onwards, direction-less,  unsure of their self-worth. I find myself in pain for our young guest.  How can someone raise and maintain a happy family when he has never known one? Of course with the help of God, but as parents should we perhaps not keep in mind that we are not just participating in a family but also peparing the next generations to raise the families of the future? I guess this is something that I may want to reconsider while we try as good as we can to raise our own children. If they follow our example or if our example sets the norm than what an important responsibilty we have for the future to set an example worthy of following: an example of what it means to live according to the priority God, family, community.
It is in these last weeks I am realizing that I need to change, a lot, and that I will need God’s help to do just that. It is in the last weeks that I started to understand how important it is to provide a loving environment and most of all that love also means that you are not going to let your children live out their mistakes. Most of all I am starting to realize that teaching, instructing is best done by providing a leading example His Kingdom is one of power not of words. In that respect I may have a lot to work on and actually need God’s help more than ever. This is why we must be careful in everything we do. Along with loving God and being a godly example by committing ourselves to His commands, we could start by the command of Deuteronomy 6:7-9 regarding teaching our children to do the same, in words and action.

“7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Instruction so it seems from this verse is of an ongoing nature and can be done at all times – at home, on the road, at night, and in the morning, in word and in action. The Bible thus becomes the foundation in our home, for our family life. By following the principles of these commands, I can  teach our children that worshiping God can and should be constant, not reserved for Sunday mornings or nightly prayers or thanksgivings. Moreover that it comes from the heart and through thoughts, words AND actions.
God, family, community as the paradigm and leading by example as the strategy. An ongoing epiphany so it seems. Where do I start?  This weekend when talking to one of my boys, he expained to me that as a result of my example he and the boys will have a higher chance of becoming a smoker. I guess change is already taking place as for the first time I did not try to argue that with him. Instead  we ended up talking about how I started smoking, he wanted to know whether or not his Oma smoked (and yes  my parents did) and that is where I see how children are being taught at school. I should not feel guilty for my smoking as that was Oma and Opa’s fault, since they smoked. When will he realize that in saying this he already has the perfect escape for any wrong choices he may make when he grows up where he has seen me make them. Children are not taught to take responsibility but to transfer culpa.

Another point of attention for me. As for me, I need to step it up and make sure he sees me making the right choices (and persevere with God’s help) and be a good husband, father, head of the family and a member of the community.


Dear God,
Thank you for trusting me with the raising of a child. But I cannot do this on my own strentgth. Forgive me for being a terrible example at times, forgive me for being angry and at times to hard for the boys, forgive me for all those times where I set a bad example as to what it means to be a loving and caring father and husband. In the name of Jesus I ask you to make me into the husband and father you want me to be, with You and Jesus  as my shining examples and guided by Your Holy Spirit, so that we as a family and my sons may become shining examples of Your glory, Your power, Your love, Your compassion, Your grace, Your Wisdom, Your patience, Your goodness, Your caring nature, Your plan for us, and everything else You are that I just forgot.
In the name of Jesus, Amen

Cass Bay, a Remarkable Conversation, a Missed Opportunity, Thoughts on Xmas

Today after an awesome service at Harmony Church, I took the boys out for a “rock throwing party” at Cass Bay, just past Lyttleton this is a fantastic little bay to spend a quiet family afternoon. We had lunch out by the sea, had a contest on who could let his rock bounce on the waves the most times, looking for crabs and other little animals, all in all a great afternoon with the boys. I even had some time to read a guitar magazine in between the picnicking.

And just look at the picture on the left to get an idea of the scenery absolutely stunning. Considering that it is raining when I write this post, I guess I can consider myself blessed for this afternoon in the sun, with my three fantastic boys while mama’s out with her sister having good bonding time as well.

I guess if there’s one thing I believe it is that no present can make up for quality time with your children. And while it is quality time for them, it is also quality time for me, not just because I have a good time with the boys but because they remind you of this important edge that children have over adult: as being completely reliant on, loving and  trusting your parents, not hindered by any doubts, freely ands open towards a world of new discoveries every day, while at the same time protected where potential harm may be looming. In a sense that is also what my first year as a Christian was all about, if anything it was about learning to be a son again.

On the way back to the car we stopped for another half an hour so the boys could lose some more energy on the playground at the parking. While were there, that had been there before we came out was parked there. In it were three people in their twenties.

While the boys were out in the playground, the two passengers came out, and by the state of their appearance and the way they talked, considerably drunk and I do not rule out more than that. Their talk was aggressive, especially to the third member of their party, a female.

My boys kept on playing for some longer and it became time to get home for diner, so of to the car we went, which was parked right next to theirs. On the parking lot the female driver of the car, had another sip of her RTD and asked me if I needed more room. I was quite alright thanks. And than all out of the blue it came:

I have been watching you four for the last 45 minutes or so and I am so jealous of those boys.  I wish I had a father like that. My Father and mother never had had any time for me. I got all I needed and wanted and more in terms of things as long as I shut up. but never any time like you here on the beach with your boys.

I asked the inevitable question:

“Is that why you are out here on the piss with two guys that are treating you like dirt? Let me guess, you paid for the booze didn’t you? Regrettably I am too old to be the father of such a rebellious girl.”

“I’m 24 how old are you than?”

“46 and set in my ways.”

“Do you live in Lyttleton as well?”

“In Russley near the airport”

“Is that close to Hornby?”


“Man you really could have been my father, but you look so fit still. Fitter than those two blobs.” ( I learned now that this refers to fat or lazy (or both) people).”

“I’d adopt you in an instance my little charmer if I knew I would be able to handle a girl like you.”

That turned out to be the apparent soft spot and tears came in her eyes.

You’d have nothing to handle if I felt welcome and loved at home, if I actually had a home.”

And this is where the missed opportunity came in, as could have told her,  so much in line with what I heard at morning service, about the father heart, about how Jesus, how God loves us. How we can all have a Father that is more than happy to spend as much quality time with us as we wish for. I could have prayed with her, I could have given her a Bible, as I always have at least one spare copy in the car. But with my three boys in the car and two aggressive and drink male specimens heading back to the car to see what was going on I chose for the safety of my boys.

“What’s up mate, is she giving you a hard time?”

“Nope mates, we were just having a good chat.
I don’t know whose girlfriend she is but treat her well, she’s precious.”

“Yes sure”

The girl stepped out of the car as good as she could and gave me a hug.

“You, you are an awesome father, mary fucking Christmas and whatever to you your boys and looking at the ring your wife or ex. I love you”

Thanks sister and I love you too.

I looked at the two big dudes, flabbergasted and wild, her, and my own boys and decided that it was time to move on. My own boys safety first. Before I hit the Lyttleton Tunnel she was right behind me with the boys in the back. She followed me at least half way home. Then at a traffic light she pulled up on my right side. And when the light when green she waved, I waved back and she made a u-turn. The boys, by now curious , were asking if she was my new girl friend lol. I explained about house and home and love.

It kept on recurring to me that being a provider, actually refers to being the one that offers a home, a loving and nurturing environment with room to grow,  as opposed to a house, a building . And this girl was the living example of how no material stuff can’t make up for the experiential love of parents. I decided to put my thoughts to the test.

” Boys I was thinking: how we could maybe give away you Christmas presents to Fajana (our vcision child adoptee) and friends. You trade it in for a speciual day with mama or papa”

“Can we  at least keep ine small one under the tree?”

“Sure you can”

To my surprise they all agreed that that was ok. While we could sing praisesabout that, in fact it illustrates what is high on the priority list of at least my children although I think it reaches wider (given my earlier talk).

Perhaps as parents we could consider that one gift that can not be bought at the Warehouse, that special bargain that only parents can give: undivided love and attention, special family time, whether on top of all this material stuff or as suggested. Perhaps we parents could all make providing a home in which lout children feel special, loved and nurtured a first priority, and that means that above all Spending Time with out children a priority. So that despite all the material stuff they do not end up on the piss driving around so as to avoid being at the house that was never a home with loving, compassionate and nurturing parents.

I know what I have to work on this Christmas and thereafter, what are your thoughts?